Croup is an illness of the respiratory system, usually caused by a virus, involving the vocal cords and upper airways. It causes a barky cough, which often becomes worse at night and sounds alarming but usually is not dangerous. Your child may also have a fever, decreased appetite, and a harsh crowing sound when breathing in (stridor).

Comfort and reassurance may help, as the stridor or cough tends to worsen with anxiety and activity. Home treatments that may give some improvement include taking your child into a bathroom that has been steamed for 10- 15 minutes, then exposing your child to cool night air or cool air from the refrigerator. A cool mist humidifier is recommended as well.

The worst of the illness lasts usually 2-3 days, but a wet cough may persist up to 1-2 weeks. A cough suppressant can be tried to help relieve the cough in patients age 6 years and older.

Call immediately if your child has very fast breathing, over 70-80 times per minute, bluish color to the lips, a persistent cough, difficulty breathing, or a fever of 103° or higher with croup symptoms.